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Humans of TU Delft: Gary Steele
Professor Gary Steele. (Photo: Heather Montague)

Who are the people who work and study at TU Delft? Being chosen Teacher of the Year for applied physics was a big surprise for Professor Gary Steele.

“I’m originally from Toronto. I did my PhD at MIT, came here in 2006 for a postdoc, and stayed to start my group in 2010. We focus on quantum circuits and mechanics, and we make circuits in a cleanroom, using superconducting wires that we can coerce to behave in a quantum mechanical way.
Part of my group studies the properties of these quantum circuits, while the other part tries to make little mechanical vibrating objects on the chips, a bit like MEMS (microelectromechanical systems).

If you have a Wii, or if your kids have a Wii, it can tell when you move your hands. The way that works is that inside of the Wii, there’s a little vibrating object on the chip. When you move your hands, it starts to bounce around. The Wii can sense that it’s bouncing and can track that to move your player around. It’s a bit like if you’re in a car and you’re holding a cup of coffee and someone hits the gas, then the coffee spills.
It’s the same concept, except that the little thing that moves is built into a chip. It’s a pretty common thing now in many applications. Your phone has at least five or six of them. One of the main focusses of the group is to make little vibrating things like this on chips and then use quantum circuits to programme and control their quantum states.

‘I do enjoy teaching’

Being chosen as teacher of the year was a surprise for me. I had no idea, and I really was not expecting it. There was a faculty barbecue, and it was a mega busy time of the year for me, with courses finishing, retake exams, oral exams, etc. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it. But then I got an email saying I should probably go, so I went, and it was quite a surprise when they announced the award.
It was never my aim to become teacher of the year: it’s not like I sat down and strategically made it an objective. But I do enjoy teaching, and in general when I teach a course, I put a lot of effort into it, and I think in the end, that’s one of the reasons I ended up being chosen. It’s nice to see that recognised.”

Want to be featured in Humans of TU Delft? Or do you know someone with a good story to tell? Send us an e-mail at humansoftudelft@gmail.com

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